"Family is fate, but it is also a choice" - Part 1

“Family is fate, but it is also a choice” – Attica Locke in The Cutting Season

Sometimes, in rare instances, life gives you a do-over. Like the morning sun that peeks through laden monsoon clouds in Lahore, the air still damp, nursing a hangover from the rain that fell through the night, a second chance emerges in your life. It comes so naturally that for a few moments, you don’t even recognize it. Slowly, you begin to see it. As the sky lightens on those mornings after rain, the sun seeping into the horizon fluidly, one smooth stroke of an artist, you begin to feel your mood lifting. You are excited for the possibilities a new day brings.

The sun rises. That is set in stone – you have no choice in the matter. Depending on your belief system, some things are just decided for you by a higher power, or happened to you by sheer random chance. Your family for instance – you did not choose where you’d be born and to whom. That just…happened. You were dealt a set of cards and you simply had to play the game. I was blessed with an amazing family. Sisters who looked up to me, a brother completely devoted to his eldest sister, and parents who did not tire of singing praises of their first-born. I was a star of my father's house.

When I grew up enough to understand, really understand my family, I started to recognize cracks, unnoticeable at first like those thin lines that show up on cheap stoneware dinner plates after you use your steak knife on them too many times. Gradually, they became more prominent like a slightly jagged line running from the rim to the bottom of a coffee mug. Stark. Jarring. Unnerving. You don’t stop loving the people you love just because it requires more effort. Instead, you dive deep within yourself, unpack the hidden reserves of tolerance and forgiveness and kindness and give it your all. You try to love fiercely, obstinately, unapologetically. But sometimes you fail. And when you fail, you run away, like I did. I came away from home slathered in an adolescent’s anger. I didn’t just leave home; I left my father. “There. That will show him,” I thought. I ran away from the cracks in the china and let someone else put it back together.

Daddy's Girl.
I got a do-over. Last Christmas, I got a frightening phone call. My father was in the hospital after a stroke. Something in my perspective shifted that night while I held a ten-hour vigil next to the phone with my two-month-old daughter in my arms, waiting to hear news of my father. This whole time away from home had just been one long overcast night in the season of monsoons. The air had been heavy with rain, drunk on the humidity, thick and suffocating.  But it had passed. The sun was coming up, turning the far end of my horizon a murky orange-gray.

Nothing mattered. The only thing that had any meaning in my life was my father. I prayed for a second chance with him. I prayed for an opportunity to make things right. And I got it. This time, I did not just end up as my father’s daughter by fate. I chose to be his daughter.

And I make that choice consciously every day. Sometimes I resent my choice, but most of the time I am grateful that I had the privilege of making it.